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March 27, 2008

Carol Bellamy: Women & Children Are the Future

Two Groups Are Key to Spark Positive World Development

A crowd of students, faculty and members of the community filled the Maroney Forum at St. Francis College Thursday, March 27 for a talk by former City Council President and New York State Senator Carol Bellamy on how women and children are the main force behind positive societal developments across the world.

Carol Bellamy is now the President and CEO of World Learning, a private, non-profit organization that promotes international and intercultural understanding through education, training, exchange and development activities in more than 70 countries.

She said that because globally, women tend to have broader social networks and that they are usually the ones responsible for educating children, they can use this relationship as a driving force to prompt positive social change in a variety of ways like reducing wars, violence against women and AIDS cases. Bellamy spoke about the challenges facing the women and children of the world like vastly disproportionate poverty rates compared to men and the millions of children under 5 who die of treatable causes and diseases.

After laying out the challenges, Bellamy focused on solutions including how to combat AIDS, microcredits as a way of empowering women and how to stop violence against women and children.

Bellamy said that education is the single closest thing we have to a silver bullet to solve problems like inequality among men and women. To combat AIDS, she points out the need to craft a message that takes into account the various cultural differences of a society. For example in Africa, where in some places when an infected husband dies, the uncle will take the wife.

The use of microcredits, very small loans of as little as 10 to 20 dollars, have become a popular way to try to empower individuals. Bellamy says that microcredit programs are a "positive, useful tool in the toolbox of societal development." But she cautions that we have to become leery of microcredits becoming just another flavor of the day and be aware that it is only one of a number of things that need to be done to make real improvements in the lives of women and children and to really change a society that favors men.

Another caution for microcredits is that as some women become more self-sufficient there is the possibility of increased violence against them by jealous men or men who want access to their loans.

In 1978, Bellamy, became the first woman to be elected to citywide office in New York City when she was elected President of the NYC Council. She was a State Senator before that and also served as Executive Director of UNICEF and Director of the Peace Corps.

Carol Bellamy's appearance was sponsored by St. Francis College, The Women's Studies Center, the Women's Studies Minor, & The Institute for International and Cross-Cultural Psychology.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

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